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'I hate to say it, but Nicola Sturgeon is the best-known person in my neck of the woods'

'I hate to say it, but Nicola Sturgeon is the best-known person in my neck of the woods'

John Daly, the Conservative councillor for Glasgow Baillieston, tells Holyrood how living and working in the east of the city has taught him there’s so much more to life than cheesemongers and fancy wine bars.

Describe the area you represent in one sentence

From north to south it differs quite obviously and starkly because it’s a ward that has both extremes within it in terms of poverty, educational attainment and health results; it’s Glasgow in microcosm.

How long have you lived there?

I live adjacent to it and have done for 16 years, but it’s a two-minute drive away and I taught there. I deliberately chose to teach in an area with high social deprivation and low attainment and I deliberately chose primary teaching over secondary. There’s that old adage that secondary school teachers teach subjects but primary school teachers teach children. Career rewards are more than just financial and when you make a difference, particularly if it’s children who might not want to be there but suddenly you see a light go on. That’s a huge, huge reward.

Tell us something we won’t know about your local area

There’s an absolute wealth of talent sitting here in the east of Glasgow. We have all shapes, all sizes, all income groups, people who are very aspirational and others who require a push to head in the right direction. 

Who is the best-known person from your area?

I hesitate to say these words, but it’s Nicola Sturgeon.

What challenges are unique to your particular part of the country?

It’s about education and skills and opportunities – all those things fit together. In the 1980s we had deindustrialisation and a lot of people were left behind and that’s why we have a lot of problems today – that’s why there’s an antipathy to the Tories here. As we move to a green economy, we have to make sure we do this justly and equip adults and children to give them the skills to play a full and active part in the economy. It’s all about engaging and including people. If you just do things to people – say ‘here’s a new house’ and tell them you are imposing cycle lanes and speed limits – they take a grudge. If you take them with you, you get a better result.

What made you stand for election?

Two things coincided. I took early retirement – I decided early that I would go at 55 or 56 because the job virtually controlled my life – and I had a few health scares. Then lockdown happened and because I couldn’t enjoy the fruits of having extra time on my hands to travel or whatever I looked for something else. A by-election came up and I was fortunate enough to get the nomination, but I didn’t win. When the local elections came along they asked if I would stand again and I thought I would. It wasn’t a good time for the Scottish Conservatives – we lost five of our seven councillors in Glasgow – but I’m very much a ward councillor, I like being in my ward.

What’s the one thing Holyrood politicians could do that would be of greatest benefit to the area you represent?

Stop making the Scottish tax system as complex and complicated as it is in an effort to make us look as progressive as possible, because it doesn’t. There are aspiring young families in my ward who contact me because they’re worried about making ends meet. I’m talking about teachers, police officers, firefighters – people who are not what [local SNP MSP] John Mason calls “rich people”. They are comfortable people, but when you take someone from the 21p to the 42p tax rate just because they have gone for promotion, you’re battering aspiration and sending the wrong message. People don’t want a ceiling put on them by government.

What’s the best bit about living where you do?

The people. We don’t have a cheesemonger or wine bars, but what we do have is real people, people who tell you what is and what’s not. They don’t faff around with you. The challenges are great but so are the rewards. 

Is there a particular word you love using that only people in your part of the country would recognise?

Gaddin. As in “I’m no’ talkin’ to her, it’s her turn to do the close and it’s pure gaddin.” It’s falling out of usage, but it’s Glasgow close talk for dirty. 

If you could live anywhere else, where would it be?

I’m not a great sun worshipper so anywhere that’s got a temperate climate and there’s a window that looks out onto a beach. It doesn’t have to be golden sands, there’s just nothing better than waking up in the morning, seeing the sea and sand, and five minutes later being there walking the dogs.

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